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Autopsying the first casualties of the new TV season

By Arielle Levine

Section: Arts

October 21, 2011

As soon as the new shows for this season were announced, I sat down and watched the trailer for every single one—all 27 of those scheduled to debut on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and the CW. The first new show premiered Sept. 13 and there are two shows yet to premiere. Although I was initially excited, this soon went away after a few weeks of watching prime time: A month after that first premiere, there have already been five cancellations.

One of the first shows to be canceled was NBC’s “The Playboy Club,” which made it to all of three episodes. In the wake of the success of “Mad Men,” both NBC and ABC have attempted to capitalize on dramas set in the 1960s. Thus far, ABC seems to be fairing better with its “Pan Am.” In fact, even before “The Playboy Club” aired, it was surrounded by controversy, with feminists as well as parents calling for boycotts of the show.

As long as you watched the trailer, there is no need to watch the pilot. Maureen (Amber Heard), a small town girl turned Bunny, kills a man in self-defense. Unfortunately for her, that man turns out to be the head of the mob. Thankfully Nick Dalton, played by LeeAnn Rimes’ hubby Eddie Cibrian, comes to the rescue. For men, Dalton is the man to be; for women, he’s the with whom man to be seen. When he whisks Maureen and the body out of the club, his girlfriend Carol Lynn (Laura Benanti) becomes suspicious. The intended effect is a love triangle but, after three episodes, there wasn’t enough development to see this as more than Nick helping the helpless.

The show had several other plot lines, with many of the characters hiding something or running a scam. In the episodes that aired, there are a few suspicious bunnies.

These include Door Bunny Kate and Bunny Jenny. It is revealed that Door Bunny Kate (Katherine Cunningham) is using the money she makes at the club to fund an underground gay rights movement. Bunny Janie, played by Jenna Dewan-Tatum (the wife of actor Channing Tatum), turns out to be married. And, in the final episode, a new girl is hired who also seems to be running some other sort of scam. Each of our suspicions seems to have a neat little explanation. This only leads to decreasing the pressure in what should have been a time bomb waiting to explode.

As ratings quickly decreased, NBC pulled the plug on this misfire. NBC quickly announced that it would be replacing “Playboy Club” with “Rock Center,” a news-magazine program hosted by Brian Williams.

CBS’ “How to Be a Gentleman” stars David Hornsby as Andrew Carlson, the writer of a column with the same name as the show. He seems to be a nerdier version of Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother,” though he doesn’t do anywhere near as well with the ladies. Aside from always wearing a suit and constantly giving tips on what a gentleman does or does not do (similar to Barney’s “bro code”), the similarities are slim to none. In the beginning of the series, Andrew receives a gift certificate to a gym for his birthday and his personal trainer ends up being a guy who beat him up in high school, Bert (Kevin Dillon).

It is apparent in their interactions that Bert never really grew up. When Andrew’s boss tells him to revamp his column, however, to make it “sexier,” Andrew enlists Bert to help teach him how to be a “man.” This motivation is what fuels the show, but not to any spectacular effect.

The relationship between Andrew and Bert seemed overly forced and unrealistic. By the second episode, Bert moved in with Andrew. They jump from Bert punching Andrew to having the pair be practically best friends. While the show features some funny moments, the extremes of Andrew’s frailty and Bert’s caveman ways end up being unrelatable. As a result, “How to Be a Gentleman” lasted only three episodes as well.

I have to be honest and say that I couldn’t force myself to watch the pilot episode of the CW show “H8R” (forgive me for being a H8R). I was fairly convinced that it would be canceled after the first episode but, sadly, it lasted an astonishing four episodes. “H8R” is the only new “reality” show to be canceled so far this season.

The show’s plot centers around bringing “celebrities” face-to-face with the person who has been saying terrible things about them on the Internet. The first episode featured Snooki and Jake Pavelka from “The Bachelor.” My guess is that the “H8Rs” have less guts face-to-face and end up apologizing, but feel free to contact me if I’m wrong and you’ve actually seen any of the episodes.

ABC started out this season with a total of seven new shows, but it seems greater quantity does not mean greater quality. Their reboot of “Charlie’s Angels” didn’t fare well. These new angels and much younger Bosley take themselves too seriously. The show lacks the lightheartedness that the most recent movies held.

NBC, who seemed to be starting strong with six shows, has canceled not only “Playboy Club” but also “Free Agents.” This half-hour comedy featured two co-workers who end up having a one-night stand and then awkwardly try to work with each other. “Free Agents” is an American adaptation of the British “Free Agents,” which didn’t last either. This is even more ironic considering Anthony Head (you may know him as Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) played the boss in both the American and British version of “Free Agents.”

As five shows got canned in a little more than a month, we’ll just have to wait and see how many more shows are able to stay above water.

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